Imagine finding one record that took your family tree all the way back to the 1600s. For many families, this can happen with the help of Irish parish records.
Long before Ireland mandated the civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages, parishes recorded these and other important events in their own registers. Now, with the help of modern research tools, it’s easier than ever to search these records for clues about your Irish lineage.
Keep reading to find out how you can access these Irish records online. We’ll share free resources, advice from our experts, and historical facts to help you piece together your ancestry with records from Catholic parishes in Ireland.
There are several ways to find parish records in Ireland. The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has an extensive collection of copies available to view and print for free. The NLI has also partnered with Findmypast, a leading Irish family history site, to make these records even easier for researchers to access.
Findmypast is home to the most comprehensive online collection of Irish family history documents, including millions of exclusive records. They’ve published their collections in partnership with The National Archives of Ireland, The National Archives UK, and a host of other local, county, and national archives. So, if you’re looking for family history information from Irish parishes, this is a great place to start.
In 2016, Findmypast released 10 million Irish Catholic parish registers. They had been fully indexed for the first time, with images of the original documents linked online. This historic publication introduced one of the most important record collections available for Irish families. And the best part? Findmypast made the collection free to search forever.
About this collection release, Brian Donovan, Irish records expert at Findmypast, said:
“This important publication marks a further step in Findmypast’s commitment to making Irish family history more accessible. In less than 5 years, we have made over 110 million records (with 300 million names) available online for the first time. Irish research has been transformed from the select pursuit of the few, to a fun and relatively easy hobby for the many. The Irish story of hardship, migration and opportunity is a global story, and in partnership with the cultural institutions around the world, we are bringing the fragments of their lives within reach.”
Families can search these records for free, filtering by name, year, and place. It’s a unique opportunity for researchers like you to make important links within their family trees. You can fill gaps between generations with the baptism records, and between families with the marriage registers available through this resource.
The Irish Catholic parish registers available through Findmypast span more than 200 years of Ireland’s history, from 1900 to 1671. They contain over 40 million Irish Catholic names from over 1,000 parishes. These records cover 97 per cent of the island of Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
This collection forms the most important resource for finding Irish ancestors before the 1901 census. It allows researchers to trace their roots all the way back to pre-famine Ireland.
Now that such a vast collection of church records is available, researchers can see a clearer picture of Ireland’s history. These records reveal the devastating effects of the Great Famine, which took place from 1845 to 1852.
For example, we can use the records to compare baptism rates in pre and post-famine Ireland. Doing so reveals that the number of children baptised across Ireland dropped by more than 50 per cent in the decade that followed the Great Famine.
Across all 32 traditional Irish counties, 2,408,694 baptisms were recorded from 1835 to 1844. In contrast, 1,109,062 baptisms were recorded between 1851 and 1860, a difference of more than 1,299,000 baptisms.
The records also reveal the regions hit hardest by the Great Famine. Counties Limerick, Wexford, Roscommon, and Kilkenny saw the most dramatic drops in Catholic baptismal rates.
Turn to the Irish Family History Centre for help researching Catholic parish records related to your family history. Our experts have years of experience digging through Catholic records and a whole range of other sources to help families trace their Irish roots.
If you’ve discovered a gap in your family history, we can give you the right tools and resources to uncover the missing pieces. Contact us today to extend your family tree back through the generations with the help of Irish parish records.